How School-Age Hypebeasts Turn A Sportswear Obsession Into Hard Cash
Hey, kids: why wear your brand-new pair of limited-edition trainers on your feet when you can sell them on for a huge profit?
BY Charlie Teasdale | Oct 5, 2017 | Shoes
Max and Alex, both 18, stand at a table covered in trainers in an old brewery off east London's Brick Lane. One gets the attention of the person on the other side, points to a pair and asks how much they cost. He is told they are £450 (*SGD800), so he counts out the cash in his hand and passes it over. The other, pointing to a different pair, is told they will cost him £500 (*SGD890). He too pays the money, and in a few short seconds the boys are light of nearly a grand. "Don't fucking tell my mum," one whispers to the other.
Welcome to Crepe City, London's foremost trainer reselling festival, where people gather to spend — and make — big money on second-hand shoes. It started in 2009 at the Arts Club in Notting Hill. "There were maybe 10 sellers," says co-founder Morgan Weekes. "No one wanted to sell. At that time, people were quite suspect." Eight years later and it's safe to say that any trepidation in the secondary trainer market has dissipated, with almost 5,000 tickets sold for the last Crepe City event in March.
Collectors have been trading in trainers for decades, but ever since Adidas introduced the Yeezy, produced in collaboration with Kanye West in 2015, the resale market has gone into hyperdrive. Now, a culture of limited runs, exclusive collaborations and frequent "drops" has been established. Demand always outweighs supply so there is a near-constant frenzy for the latest style; those lucky enough to get a pair at retail can make vast profits by "flipping" their purchase the same day. The annual trainer resale market is reportedly now worth in the region of £4.6bn (*SGD8 billion) globally.
The trader who sold Max and Alex their shoes was just 14, and there are many more like him. In terms of youth movements, this scene is not that different to teddy boys, or mods, or casuals (especially casuals). You need to wear specific brands, listen to certain music, of course, but the end product is where it differs, because as Crepe City demonstrates, being relevant in streetwear is as much about entrepreneurial acumen as it is about being cool.
By the time you're reading this, there will have been another Crepe City event, with more traders and more baffled (cash poorer) parents. Plus more exceptionally well-dressed teenagers and more people making bigger returns on one pair of trainers than Nike and Adidas could ever dream of. So, it might be time to dig out those old basketball high-tops, they could well cover your next mortgage payment.
During Crepe City, the yard behind the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane becomes a street style catwalk, with shoppers male and female showing off their recent purchases.
On their sales stand, these teenaged traders are offering an eclectic selection of trainers including Adidas Yeezy Boost 750 'Greys', Nike Air Yeezy 2 'Solar Reds' and Yeezy Duck Boots.
Many sellers invest heavily in stock, offering the same shoe style in numerous sizes and colours while creating their own brand names — such as Crep LDN or Crepe Styles.
Crepe City is not just about buying and selling trainers. It's about showing off your streetstyle, too. Clothing ranges from Argyle sweaters to snow goggles and fleece deerstalkers to floral bomber jackets, like the one pictured here, by New York label Supreme. Equally popular is British skate brand Palace.
The busy trading stall area inside Crepe City. 'It is becoming a whole beast now,' says event co-founder Morgan Weekes, 'it's streetwear, fashion. It's become a whole package in one. If you like footwear, you'll like sport, you'll like movies. That's why I like it, because it all connects. Footwear is the great unifier'.
A Crepe City attendee wears a jacket by Supreme x The North Face. Clothing and footwear collaborations involving Supreme often lead to mass hysteria. An estimated 1,000 people queued in London in June when Supreme x Louis Vuitton pieces went on sale. In Tokyo, 7,500 people waited in line for the same launch.
The girl on the left wears a T-shirt by Supreme and Comme des Garçons Play x Converse All Stars; her friend's shirt is Gosha Rubchinskiy and her trainers are Air Max 97s by Nike.
*Denotes translated price.
This article was first published in the print edition of Esquire Singapore, September 2017.